Protect the shield. That's what the Roger Goodell is always striving to do, looking to enhance it's image. With the recent bullying scandal in Miami, there's more urgency to do so now. What was amazing about the report that Ted Wells released last week, documenting the kind of language Dolphins players routinely, used, especially Richie Incognito towards Jonathan Martin, is that there are reports of NFL teams implementing work conduct guidelines to prevent words like the N-word from being used.
It's generating significant conversation and attention around league circles, the media, and the general chorus of talk radio and fan discourse. But in a way, it mistakenly grouped all locker rooms into the same perception, which is obviously not the case -- no matter the umbrella of acceptance being promoted.
"I have no question," Whitworth said when asked if the Bengals would welcome a gay player. "We have plenty of practice dealing with different personalities over the years. Being accepting of people is something that is special about our locker room and special about Cincinnati where we’ve created an environment where most guys are always accepted and we’re worried about playing football.
"We discriminate against a lot of things – size, speed, production, work ethic, quickness, balance," said Bengals director of Player Personnel. "We've never discriminated against color, religious beliefs or sexual preference. The things that don’t matter on a football field we won’t discriminate against. They don’t matter to us. What we’re focused on in every player is how he fits for us."
The NFL wants to make sure that it doesn't happen at all, even during an NFL game where slurs can flow from player's mouths, as if they're ordering a meal at McDonald's. According to Jason La Canfora with CBS Sports, the league may impose a 15-yard penalty for the use of a racial slur. A second infraction would lead to an ejection.
"I will be totally shocked if the competition committee does not uphold us on what we're trying to do," head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance John Wooten said. "We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room. Secretaries, PR people, whoever, we want it eliminated completely and want it policed everywhere."
Wooten is specifically talking about the "N word", but figure that the umbrella of unacceptable slurs will expand beyond that.
The NFL had no comment, but league sources did confirm that the idea of "respect" among teammates is a priority. The league is studying major changes to workplace policies in the wake of the Wells report, and Goodell and Troy Vincent from the league office have already met with 35 players to discuss issues of workplace conduct.
We get that the NFL locker room is desolation from the public eye, and therefore doesn't hold the same standards that applies to most high-profile entertainment businesses or general celebrity status. Now that attention into the locker room as increase, so has the NFL's desire to ensure these issues no longer embarrass the league.
(Jason Marcum contributed to this report)